Many of us spent much more time at home than ever before this past year. Spending time in the same surroundings all day every day may understandably have inspired feelings of overwhelm, exacerbated by forms of clutter we may have accumulated along the way. Not only can clutter make us feel defeated and out of control, but it can also negatively impact our physical and mental wellness. To declutter, there are three major areas to tackle: our physical, digital, and psychological spaces.

Decluttering Physical Spaces: Why Declutter?

In a new study published by the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers propose that clutter inhibits the curation of self-identity at home, finding that people living with significant clutter were more likely to experience low mood, weariness, guilt and shame, and overall dissatisfaction with their lives. A study of dual-income spouses published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who described their homes as “cluttered” and “unfinished” experienced elevated ratings of depressed mood. A 2016 study of female college students published in the journal Environment & Behavior found that participants in a “chaotic” kitchen environment who were in an out-of-control mindset ate more higher calorie snacks than those in uncluttered kitchens. A messy house or workspace can also exacerbate symptoms of ADHD. A cluttered space not only provides more distractions and makes it easier to lose or misplace objects, but also impedes memory, disrupts follow-through, and increases procrastination. In short, scientific evidence supports the claim that decluttering our physical spaces promotes peace of mind.

Decluttering Physical Spaces: How to Declutter

Given that we currently own more stuff than any society in history, it can be daunting to keep our work and living environments clear of clutter. If fully embracing something like the KonMari Method™  feels like too big a commitment, try embarking on your own version of a tidying festival by working in short, timed increments. Pick a room or a set of items (medicine cabinet, spice rack, the pile of shoes by the front door, the dreaded junk drawer), set a timer for 15-20 minutes, and work in that area until the timer goes off. Even if the section is not complete, you will have made some progress, giving yourself a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to tidy for another 15 minutes tomorrow.  

Decluttering Digital Spaces: Why Declutter?

From Zoom meetings (and the attendant Zoom fatigue), online school, text messages, and push notifications to FaceTime, social media scrolling, and the constant ping of email, our digital lives can stress us out and clutter our mind even after we sign off for the day. In situations where spatial delineations between work, school, and home are absent, it can be harder to determine when work stops. Research has found an association between higher screen time and moderate or severe depression in adults, and a variety of health harms for children and adolescents, with evidence strongest for adiposity, unhealthy diet, depressive symptoms, and poorer quality of life. 

Decluttering Digital Spaces: How to Declutter

Setting boundaries around when we use technology and for what purpose is the first step in managing the stress and protecting ourselves against adverse health effects. Decide what hours of the day you will spend “at work” and then close out of work-related apps and browser windows and mute work-related conversations when you are done. Studies have shown that limiting the frequency of checking email throughout the day reduces daily stress from information overload and increases productivity. To help minimize the interruption and distraction of email, try changing your relationship to your inbox: check your emails once an hour or every other hour rather than all the time; create filters to help prioritize and sort messages; and maintain a separate list of tasks to be completed so that your inbox is not functioning as your to-do list.

While physically cleaning your computer and phone regularly is a great habit for keeping your tools in tiptop shape and preventing the spread of germs, tidying up what’s on your tech will also make it easier to focus. Try enabling grayscale mode to reduce distraction. To reduce digital clutter, try turning off news notifications, unsubscribing from mailing lists, updating your operating system and apps, and organizing your desktop. 

Decluttering Our Minds: Why & How to Declutter?

Stress can have damaging impacts on brain function. Evidence shows that stress interferes with cognition, memory, and attention, and affects mood and anxiety. While we may not always be able to change our situations, we can choose how we respond, and improve our health and wellbeing in the process. Routinizing activities that bring us comfort and joy — whether that is returning to a morning journaling habit, taking 15-minute walk in the afternoon, or simply pausing during the day to take a series of deep breaths — can reduce our stress and benefit our focus. These types of mindfulness techniques can help us build a foundation of self-care to feel more organized mentally and emotionally. 
Need help getting organized? For a better understanding of how executive function skills and healthy habits can help your family, contact Organizational Tutors today.

OT Team

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